Texas Sheet Cake: A Great BBQ Dessert

Baking, Cook, Fire Smoke & Flavor, Regional Spotlight


In Texas, where our Fire Smoke & Flavor BBQ tour began, every family has their own way of making the state’s signature sheet cake. Still, one golden rule is never broken: the cake is always baked on a baking sheet, not in a cake pan. This tradition ensures a lighter, less rich texture — immediately countered by a layer of chocolate frosting, almost as thick as the cake itself.


Texas mom Rachel Matthews is the blogger behind A Southern Fairytale, where she posted a Texas Sheet Cake recipe that’s been in her family for more than 40 years. Matthews shared with me her secrets for making this authentic Texas dessert, perfect for topping off a meal of classic slow-cooked brisket sandwiches.


Matthews recalls her mother and grandmother baking this cake when she was a little girl. “I can remember sticking my finger in the frosting when I was five or six years old,” she says. “They’d make it for birthdays, potlucks or just because we were having friends over. It’s like eating a memory.”


Now, Matthews says, it’s her little kids who are sneaking tastes of cake when they shouldn’t be.



Besides using a baking sheet, Matthews insists the frosting is the key to a good sheet cake. “You pour on the hot frosting after you bake the cake, and it chills and gives you a cool crispness,” she says. “Some people even serve the cake chilled from the icebox, as my grandmother would say. Traditionally the frosting is made with pecans, but I’m not a fan of pecans, so mine is made with walnuts.”


Matthews’ cake also calls for vanilla and cinnamon, two ingredients that she says “make the cake.” However, she adds, “You look in any church or Junior League cookbook and you’re going to find tons of different sheet cake recipes.”


And a final tip: “You need a sheet pan with raised edges,” she says. “You just have to. When you move into a new house, you bake a Texas sheet cake, a) because it’s delicious, and b) because it lets you know if your oven is level or not.”


Texas Sheet Cake


For the cake:

2 cups flour (but not really … more like 1 cup and just a hair shy of another cup … 1 cup and 1 not-quite-level cup)

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) margarine

1 cup water

3 Tbs. cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon


For the frosting:

8 Tbs. (1 stick) margarine

3 Tbs. cocoa powder

6 Tbs. milk

1 box (1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a sheet cake pan (be sure it has raised edges).


In a large bowl, stir together the flour (I use a little less than 2 full cups), granulated sugar and salt.


In a saucepan, combine the margarine, water and cocoa powder. Stir while bringing to a boil. Pour over the flour mixture.


In another bowl, stir together the eggs, baking soda, buttermilk, vanilla and cinnamon. Add to the flour-cocoa mixture.


Transfer the batter to the prepared sheet cake pan and bake for 18 minutes.


Five minutes before the cake is done, make the frosting: In a saucepan, combine the margarine, cocoa powder and milk. Heat and then add the confectioners’ sugar, nuts, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the frosting over the cake and allow to cool.


Recipe and images courtesy of A Southern Fairytale.

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